1.1 Accreditation Schemes
Membership of accreditation schemes is voluntary. They enable landlords to demonstrate that their properties comply with legal standards and good management practice through the accreditation status.
Local and central Government, professional housing organisations and landlord associations recommend membership.
Some form of accreditation operates across two thirds of the geographical areas covered by the 350 local authorities in England and Wales. Schemes are operated by both landlord organisations and local authorities with some student-based schemes operated by educational establishments or related agencies.
The Private Rented Sector Accreditation Scheme (PRSAS) http://prsaccreditation.com is a scheme which operates in England.
The Accreditation Network UK (ANUK) is the national body that publicises, promotes and shares good practice in accreditation. Detailed information about accreditation is available from: http://www.anuk.org.
1.1.1 How Accreditation Schemes Operate
Schemes work either by inspecting properties and accrediting a property or a landlord. Or, by training the landlord to ensure they have a certain set of skills regarding their legal and management obligations and duties. Skills and training-based schemes often involve a training day or an interactive web test and are gaining in popularity because of the expense of undertaking verification procedures by visiting properties.
When properties are visited, sometimes schemes accredit either the landlord or the property. These require compliance with a set of reasonable physical and management standards. Schemes relating to students are more likely to involve the physical inspection of a sample of properties but there are also some skills-based schemes that have an element of physical inspection.
Operational details vary according to, and to suit, a range of regional or local factors.
All proper accreditation schemes meet with ANUK’s four core values which are:
The Declaration Accreditation is about accountability: to be accountable there must be a voluntary declaration by the supplier or manager of the housing to a set of processes or standards (normally both). The declaration should be regular and normally should take place once every three to five years.
Verification A scheme must verify that those who sign up to meet standards are doing so. Time has shown that to maintain both consumer and landlord confidence there must be a regular and transparent process that checks on the standards being met, issues some form of report and where any shortcomings are identified, a landlord must agree to an improvement package. Whatever the verification process is, it must be public, realistic and achievable. A complaints system alone is not sufficient to ensure verification.
Continuing Improvement Verification should not be simply about standards being met. The notion of continuing improvement sets the mental tone for accreditation: it is about doing better from a base standard and accepting that there is always room for improvement in management outputs.
Complaints There must be a proper complaints process that should be simple, inclusive, transparent, rapid and known.
1.1.2 Membership Benefits
In addition to this, scheme operators may provide a range of further benefits to encourage membership, the numbers and extent of which may be determined by available resources.
Benefits can be categorised into information provision, financial e.g. discounted products and services, and a supportive approach and ‘light touch’ regulation by local authorities, often accompanied by discounts on licensing fees.
Access to some property letting services by local authorities, educational establishments and related agencies may be conditional on membership of an accreditation scheme.
1.1.3 ANUK/Unipol Codes Of Standards For Larger Student Developments
These two Government-approved national schemes are administered by Unipol Student Homes.
One scheme is for student developments that are operated and managed by educational establishments and the second is for private sector developments.
HMOs that are owned by educational establishments and are members of the Educational Establishment Code and would ordinarily be licensable are exempt from HMO licensing. Licensable HMOs that are members of the private sector Code are not exempt from HMO licensing but the Government’s Department of Communities & Local Government advise local authorities to discount their HMO licence fee for Code members.
Further details are available from: http://www.nationalcode.org/
1.1.4 UUK Code of Practice
Universities UK (UUK) administers one Government-approved national scheme for buildings controlled and managed by educational establishments. This Code has the same purpose as the Codes mentioned above. Further details are available from: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/aboutus/whatwedo/PolicyAnalysis/StudentsTeachingSociety/Pages/default.aspx.